FAA to Boeing: Please Show that 787 Dreamliner Can't be Hacked

In a story that appeared last week in Flight International and then got legs via Wired, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is going to require Boeing "to demonstrate that certain 787 flight critical domains - digital systems and networks that for the first time will be accessible externally via wireless and other links to airline operations and maintenance systems - cannot be tampered with."

 

The FAA Special Conditions Notice [Docket No. NM364 Special Conditions No. 25-356-SC] effective 1 February 2008 summary states:

 

"These special conditions are issued for the Boeing Model 787-8 airplane. This airplane will have novel or unusual design features when compared to the state of technology envisioned in the airworthiness standards for transport category airplanes. These novel or unusual design features are associated with connectivity of the passenger domain computer systems to the airplane critical systems and data networks. For these design features, the applicable airworthiness regulations do not contain adequate or appropriate safety standards for protection and security of airplane systems and data networks against unauthorized access. These special conditions contain the additional safety standards that the Administrator considers necessary to establish a level of safety equivalent to that established by the existing standards."

The Notice goes on to state (highlighting mine):

 

The proposed architecture of the 787 is different from that of existing production (and retrofitted) airplanes. It allows new kinds of passenger connectivity to previously isolated data networks connected to systems that perform functions required for the safe operation of the airplane. Because of this new passenger connectivity, the proposed data network design and integration may result in security vulnerabilities from intentional or unintentional corruption of data and systems critical to the safety and maintenance of the airplane."

 

Again, the upshot is that the FAA is worried that passengers (or aircraft maintainers) may intentionally or by accident interfere with 787 flight systems, and wants Boeing to prove otherwise.

 

According to Flight, "Boeing's network architecture for the 787 includes embedded software and electronics used for flight critical control and navigation systems, called the aircraft control domain, as well as for airline business and administrative support, known as the airline information domain."

 

I wonder if this connectivity issue is one of the reasons for the problems with 787 software that Boeing was having a few months ago.

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